SOUTHFIELD (AP) – A student whose chest and face were burned during chemistry class can’t sue a Detroit-area teacher who lit a dish of alcohol and copper chloride, the Michigan appeals court said Wednesday.
Carrie Weingartz, who was teaching chemistry for the first time in 2009, was not grossly negligent and has governmental immunity under state law as a public school employee, the court said in a 3-0 decision.
Jeremiah Russell was burned during chemistry class at Southfield-Lathrup High School. Flames flared out when Weingartz lit a dish containing alcohol and copper chloride, a demonstration she had learned from another teacher and had performed earlier that day without any problems.
“Before performing the demonstration in front of her students, she conducted the demonstration by herself to make sure that it worked properly, which it did,” the court said. “She also told her students to keep a safe distance.”
Weingartz’s attorney, Michael Bogren, said the circumstances were unique.
“One of the things they had been focusing on was how different metals burn in different colors,” he said. “The ignition would show the flame in a brilliant way, but it only burns for a second. I honestly don’t think anyone has figured out why this event happened the way it happened. From all accounts, the flame shot out eight to 10 feet from where it was ignited.”
A message seeking comment was left with Russell’s lawyer. Bogren said Russell has made a good recovery, based on his testimony in the lawsuit.
Weingartz was an experienced science teacher in Southfield, but 2009 was her first year teaching general chemistry.
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